Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans, or anything related to them. I'm flat broke, folks.
Author's Note: I baked a pizza the other day and put powdered sugar in instead of flour. The fluff in this piece is a bit like how that pizza tasted! Please remember: Robin's going through some trauma here. He's permitted to be as sensitive as he is!! :) Please enjoy. Please review.
The smoke, that confused underground smog, cleared. We've won, I'm sure of it. That thing couldn't have withstood Starfire's eyeblast and Cyborg's cannon and my concussion grenades; there's no way.
(You know, sometimes I hate being right all the time. This was one of those moments.) I didn't want to be more wrong when the smoke cleared and there, right there, in the dead green sewer water, lay Beast Boy.
"No..." I said as Beast Boy was coming to.
He sat up and rubbed his head and he didn't know a thing. Not a damned thing. Part of me wanted to be right there, too, in that dark dead water, completely unaware of everything, completely not at fault for anything I've ever done.
Of course, I didn't know that Beast Boy wasn't himself then, hadn't been himself since he'd fought Adonis. But I thought I knew everything and I was sure I was right, just like always.
His shirt was torn - shredded, really. Every bit of his tiny frame was showing through the slits he'd unintentionally made in the uniform. I wanted nothing more than to run over there and check for wounds and mother him because damnit, he's the little brother I never had and I love the kid!
I...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get so defensive. I tend to do that when people pick on him or Starfire. Raven and Cyborg...you know, I love them too, but they're strong like me. They know how people can be and they expect what's coming out of people's mouths; they're ready for it. Besides, they've got it easy; like me, they know what being normal is like. Cyborg was normal once; Raven could pass for normal, except for her bindi and even that's not so unusual in Jump.
But Starfire and Beast Boy? If someone's mean to either of them, Starfire'll look like someone just took away her mustard; Beast Boy, for a second, looks like he's about to cry. It's like they've been blindsided. I can't stand to see them looking so lost. I don't think I ever will.
I wanted to run over there and make sure he was okay. But I couldn't get past the image in the back of my eyes: Raven, unconscious, in his teeth. He fought us - he fought me, rejected me, to try to hurt her. The words he said to Adonis before he kicked his ass jumped into my head: "I'm not a man. I'm an animal."
"Why's everybody lookin' at me like that?" he asked.
So damned innocent. I couldn't help myself - I ran over to him, knelt down in the water...
...and clamped handcuffs onto his wrists.
"Dude!" he yelled.
"It's for your own good, B," Cyborg told him. I couldn't trust myself to say anything, I had to remember my duty, I was team leader, I had to figure everything out or else...
I had to figure everything out.
"But - "
"We'll explain when we get back to the Tower. Just trust me, okay?" I whispered. I couldn't lift my voice much higher than that.
Beast Boy looked up into my mask with those big green eyes of his. I've always been jealous of those. He gets to show everything through them and he never holds anything back.
And just like that, he nodded. I put my left arm around his waist, my right underneath a shoulder, and hoisted him up onto his feet.
"I can walk," he insisted somewhere into my chest before I could get the words out of my gummy throat. I let go of his shoulder and then his waist - I'd forgotten I was still holding on to him - and then, not really sure what to do with myself, put a steering hand on his shoulder. I felt him flinch when my hand landed and I bit my lip, hard. I looked up, at last: Starfire had Raven cradled in her arms.
"Let's go," Cyborg said for me and I didn't mind that he was taking over, not this time. He's my second-in-command for a reason. When I'm incapacitated - like I was then - he's supposed to step in and guide the team. He's good at that. That's really all there is to it.
We got him to the Tower and Raven to the exam room. I didn't know what to do with him but Cyborg had the answer: a chair, elevated way off the floor, like the ones in dentist's offices. Cyborg could examine both Raven and Beast Boy the same time that way. Beast Boy got up into it so quietly that I didn't even bother grabbing the restraints from the stock room. I knew we wouldn't need them. I was sure of it. He was so small and so remorseful; he wasn't going to do anything stupid. I was sure.
I paced while Cyborg ran the tests, asked Beast Boy the questions - interrogated him - like I was supposed to do but couldn't. Starfire looked out the window into the blue twilight of Jump, sometimes turning back to glance, worried, at Raven. She'd put out her hand once or twice to comfort her, but always withdrew it; she knows Raven's powers, having had them once, are tempermental. She didn't want to disrupt anything accidentally.
She never looked over at Beast Boy. Cyborg kept his eyes firmly on Raven and the computer screens and his own screens in his arms. I put my back between him and Raven and tried not to remember that look in his eyes when we found him. He looked a little happy to see us, like he usually does, but mostly really confused and really, really scared. I've seen him spooked and intimidated and surprised by things, but I've never seen him truly scared.
And he was looking straight at me when I saw it.
"She's alive. But she's in some kinda trance," Cyborg finally pronounced.
"She's healing herself," I said, brusque. It was obvious.
That's mostly because Raven and I...we have a thing, a connection, a link. It's at the back of the mind somewhere; I can't pinpoint it exactly. It's a bit like Raven, I guess, because you can never nail her down. You think you've got her figured out and then she'll do something aberrant like laugh at one of Beast Boy's jokes and your whole concept of her goes flying out the window. It's maddening.
I wouldn't trade her for a hundred Bats.
"And you're tellin' me...I did that to her? That's impossible," Beast Boy croaked out.
It is impossible. I know. You wouldn't do that to her, you never would. You're always so gentle with all of us when we come back to this makeshift little hospital of ours, always cracking stupid jokes to make us roll our eyes while we snap each other's shoulders back into their sockets or bandage superficial wounds that Raven doesn't have the energy to heal. Once, you insisted on giving me a back massage.
"Dude, you're so tense, like, all the time. Ya gotta learn to relax. Come play some video games with me and Cy or somethin'," you said while running your fingers right into every little nook of me that was hurting. I'd taken a huge beating to the midsection that day and it was throbbing like crazy but your gloved hands were...well, it's stupid, but: they were like magic.
I stopped by your room later that night. I'm not sure why. I think I wanted to return the favor somehow, or something like that. I'll never forget how you looked, sitting in your bay window, the night breeze running through your stiff hair. You were reading a book, surprisingly enough, and although I was peeking around the doorframe to look at you, I was able to make out the title: The Gate Theory. I decided to leave you alone because you didn't need me interrupting all of that anyway; later that night, I Googled and found out that the gate theory was all about too many sensations overwhelming the nervous system so that you essentially feel nothing.
But that was two and a half months ago.
"We found you with her," I said.
I was flat and emotionless and of course masking everything else I wanted to say.
"No! I wouldn't! I mean, we had a fight, but I would never - " you insisted.
Yeah, you guys were fighting, and even though I stepped in to break it up when you got too aggressive and scary - I was scared, I admit it, I really was, but mostly for you - I was so proud that you were finally standing up to Raven. She's just trying to show you what people can do to you, even people who're as close as family, how some people just won't like you all the time. Sometimes she takes it a bit far but you never say anything. Like you said, you're "Mr. Nice Guy."
You're such a damned sweet little fool.
"She was in your teeth," Starfire whispered.
She doesn't want to believe it either because it didn't happen like that, it didn't go down like we thought it did. We're not ready to believe our eyes, not any of us, not until you tell us straight out to our faces that you did it because you hate her. It's the only thing that'll convince me.
"That's a lie!" you shout.
You're getting testy, fiercer, stronger. I know it's dangerous to get you angry because you've been so touchy lately and Cyborg's caught on to something dealing with that. He's not sure what it is yet but he's close to getting it figured out - he's been a little busy with Raven and making sure she's really okay. I told him nearly ten times she was in one of her healing trances, but he insists on double-, triple-, quadruple-checking. He probably just needed something to do.
I'm walking over to you. When did I start doing that? I'm not thinking straight. I haven't for a while now and that's not good.
Why are you doing this to me?
"I'm going to ask you to keep your voice down," I grit.
It's not what I want to say and I can only manage it because it has a hint of relevance: Raven needs to focus on her trance. We can talk on a low, calm level and she can ignore us even though that's really hard to do; but she can do it 'cause she's so strong.
But you? You aren't that strong. I always acknowledge that you're the weakest of all of us - hell, Raven could take you in a fistfight - so I always try to play to your biggest strength: you're so unpredictable when you're fighting, except for the fact that you never give up unless you're out cold.
Don't give up, Beast Boy. We're not giving up on you, don't give up on us, don't do it. We want to believe you, we do, so give us a reason. Give us anything. Give me proof.
You're holding my stare - you never do that, you always look down or away when you think I'm looking at you - and then something in your eyes gives way. I want to hug you right there, I know it's weird and touchy-feely and all that but I can't deny it.
But I do, I do deny it, somehow.
"What's happening to me?" you ask.
What's happening to us?
"I'm pickin' up traces of recombinant DNA," Cyborg announces. "It's not human."
There - there's something to latch onto.
"The chemicals at the lab?" I ask.
"Because of the shapeshifting, his genetic code was always unstable. Maybe it's just...finally falling apart," Cyborg replies, risking one glance over his shoulder at me but looking back when he sees Beast Boy there too.
Maybe we're all falling apart.
"Raven...she's going to be all right, isn't she?" you ask.
I hope so.
"I mean...she's not moving," you continue.
But she's fine, she's in her trance.
"What have I done?"
"You need to tell me what happened," I insist.
Give me something. Lie to me, even, I don't care. Just give me something to believe, Beast Boy, a fact that's irrefutable, a stone-cold alibi.
"I told you! I don't remember, any of it," you say. "We had that argument. I went to my room. I was angry, and then...nothing. Claws...a scream...nothing."
"Claws and a scream isn't nothing," I tell you.
Come on, Beast Boy. Focus, like I taught you.
It was our third week as a team and you kept getting beat up more than the rest of us in battles, usually because you'd throw yourself everywhere and in front of all of us, trying to help. My answer was to teach you how to dance. I taught you everything I knew. I even taught you how to grind; that was your favorite. And even though you thought this whole thing was weird, by about two weeks into it you weren't getting hurt as much anymore. You were nimble to begin with and you only got more and more fluid. We ended with the tango and when you asked me, timid, if you could lead, I smiled and let you. You were brilliant.
"What else?" I demand.
"That's all," you mutter.
You're not looking at me. I try to get closer.
"No, it isn't. You have to focus," I remind you.
"I AM!" you growl.
You're shutting your eyes and I want to open them back up myself, reach out and force you to look into my eyes behind my mask and see, really see that I want to see what my heart wants me to see, I want it so badly.
"You have to remember," I push.
"I'm trying!" you tell me.
You look like you're going to cry and I just want to tell you it's all going to be all right, but I can't. I'm Robin. I have to get this out of you.
Even if it hurts.
"Try harder. If you can't tell me what happened, I have to assume the worst. I have to put you in jail. You need to remember."
For me. Do it for me, Beast Boy, if you can't do it for Raven or yourself.
I trust you.
"AAAAAGH! UUUUGH! URGH!"
The alarm starts to gargle and you're shaking and roiling and I'm backing away.
"Beast Boy!" Starfire calls.
That was me. I'm not sure why I stop her. I think it's to protect her.
"Get away from me," you plead.
I can't. I can't stay away from you, Beast Boy. Just tell me what's wrong and Cyborg can fix it or Raven will when she wakes up. And maybe she'll have something to say about all this that'll convince me you didn't do this to her, to us, to me.
And then your costume begins to tear and you're moaning and changing and...
I don't know who this is in front of me.
At first, I can't move and Cyborg has to try and stop you, hold you back.
"Beast Boy! No!" I yell.
It's my last-ditch effort to try and get you to save me.
But you (is it really you in there?) knock Starfire and me away and that's the end of it.
You're now a threat.
"Bring him down!" I order.
I'm so, so sorry.
Everything blurs. At one point, you're going after Raven again.
"Leave her alone!" I scream.
I get the upper hand because even when you're in this form, I'm stronger than you. I always have been.
"Sleep tight," I say after knocking you back, throwing grenades.
But you dodge them without a thought and suddenly I'm on my stomach, beaten. Starfire sends you running and Cyborg and I chase after you, or whatever it is that's taken you over now.
This time, I knock on your open door instead of peeking around it to spy on you.
"It's open," you mutter.
You're back on your window, but there's no breeze this time. You're reading again.
"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," I read off the cover.
You don't try and defend it to me, like I think you would, and I can't think of a joke to lighten up the mood so I just climb up onto the window seat across from you and watch you read.
It's been two weeks since the battles in the sewers and the truth came out. We've barely talked since then. Every time we're in close contact with each other outside of battle situations, you find a reason to get out of my presence as soon as you can. Sometimes you don't even bother coming up with a reason.
You know, you're not even flipping any pages so unless you're a really slow reader, you're not paying attention to that book anymore. You look really nervous.
"You look tense," I blurt.
It's one of the stupidest things I've ever said and I regret it immediately when you look up at me with sarcasm written all over you. You're never really that sarcastic - didn't a Remarque character call that the weak man's line of defense? - but here you are now, using it on me, and I deserve it.
I try to say something else but I figure it's better to just say nothing. For once, I'm right.
"He wanted to do it," you say at last.
"Who?" I supply the obvious question.
"Jekyll. He wanted to change. He wanted to be this evil guy who did all these terrible things," you say, waggling the book for emphasis.
"You're not him," I insist immediately.
"The hell I'm not!" you say quietly, but you heave the book across the room and I know you're angry at me.
"There's a part of me...that thing. It came from inside me," you admit. "Whatever those chemicals did, they just...enhanced whatever was there. Brought it out of me. And it keeps wantin' to come out."
Oh, Beast Boy.
"And I'm not sure if I'll always be able to stop it," you finish. "So...I've been thinking about it. And I want you to take me off the team."
"Not going to happen, Beast Boy," I say before you even have time to look down.
You look so surprised. Did you honestly think I'd do that to you? I was an orphan once too, Beast Boy.
"You belong here. With us," I say simply.
"But - " you start.
I trust myself enough to put out one gloved finger to your lips. Your eyes swivel to it and you stop talking immediately.
"You're not going anywhere. We all love you. Even Raven," I joke. You smile underneath my finger and I pull it away at the reminder, smiling back.
You're looking at me and I'm not sure what this look means, what this is that you're giving me until you lean forward and it's a blur of green and purple and black.
And then your arms are around me, tight, secure. It's warmer than any hug Starfire's ever given me.
When we break apart, your eyes are shining and I'm sure I'm beaming wider than I ever have before.
"Have I ever told you...that I think of you like a kid brother?" I blurt.
Again I'm not thinking before I speak and again I don't really care because you're so surprised you look like a little boy watching snow fall for the first time.
"I...I always wanted a big brother," you admit, looking down at your black ankle socks.
Now it's my turn to be surprised.
"Really?" I croak out.
"Yeah," you say, your head snapping up, grin sweeping on, "It makes ratting 'em out totally sweet!"
You giggle and I roll my eyes and ruffle your hair. You don't flinch at the contact but instead just keep laughing.
This is how I always want to remember you: laughing, the moonlight half on your face and half not, your hair flying every single way possible, your eyes promising a tickling revenge to come, and everything, just everything, being completely out of control.
A/N: You will now be redirected to a plea from the author: Please review! Thank you.